- David Westerfield - https://davidwesterfield.net -

SocialMedia’ing Ourselves to Death

“The average American teenager who uses a smart phone receives her first phone at age 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day on it (excluding texting and talking). 78% of teens check their phones at least hourly and 50% report feeling ‘addicted’ to their phones. It would defy common sense to argue that this level of usage, by children whose brains are still developing, is not having at least some impact, or that the maker of such a powerful product has no role to play in helping parents to ensure it is being used optimally. It is also no secret that social media sites and applications for which the iPhone and iPad are a primary gateway are usually designed to be as addictive and time-consuming as possible, as many of their original creators have publicly acknowledged.”

https://thefederalist.com/2018/01/10/apple-facebook-arent-going-save-us-smartphone-addiction/ [1]

Love Takes Practice

Posted By David Westerfield On In Theology | No Comments

“While some of our habits are acquired by choosing to engage in certain practices (e.g., signing up for drivers’ ed. or registering for piano lessons), many are acquired without our knowing it. And this might happen especially when we are unaware of it. If we are inattentive to the formative role of practices, or if we treat some practices as thin when they are thick, then we will be inattentive to all the ways that such practices unwittingly and unintentionally become automated. We will fail to recognize that they are forming in us habits and desires, oriented to particular ends that function to draw us toward those ends at an affective, unconscious level such that we become certain kinds of people without even being aware of it.

Liturgies are rituals of ultimate concern: rituals that are formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that means to trump other ritual formations. Our thickest practices – which are not necessarily linked to institutional religion – have a liturgical function insofar as they are a certain species of ritual practice that aim to do nothing less than shape our identity by shaping our desire for what we envision as the kingdom – the ideal of human flourishing.”

James K.A. Smith, “Love Takes Practice” in Desiring the Kingdom, pp. 85-87

Covenant Versus Dispensational Theology

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I recently had a good discussion with a friend about some of the reasons I left a Dispensational church. I previously documented a number of reasons here [2] in my journey from Dispensationalism to Reformed Presbyterianism, but I also wanted to look up resources that speak to the issue and found a few articles and sites that are worth perusing. It’s interesting to note that the major founders of Dispensationalism left Presbyterianism in particular.

Resources for Augustine’s Life and Doctrine

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I’m currently reading through Augustine’s Confessions with a group at Trinity Presbyterian [7] and looked up some resources concerning Augustine’s life and work. Enjoy!

Monergism section on Augustine: https://www.monergism.com/topics/Augustine [8]

The Swan Is Not Silent: Sovereign Joy in the Life and Thought of St. Augustine – John Piper (Audio & Transcript): https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-swan-is-not-silent [9]

8 Things We Can Learn from Augustine – Gerald Bray: https://www.monergism.com/8-things-we-can-learn-augustine [10]

Augustine & Pelagius – Sam Storms:
Part 1: http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/augustine—pelagius—part-I
Part 2: http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/augustine—pelagius—part-ii [11]

A Treatise on Nature and Grace, Against Pelagius – Augustine https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/nature_grace.html [12]

Resurrection and Redemption – Richard Gaffin

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Recently, between reading Union with Christ [13] by Rankin Wilbourne and Resurrection and Redemption [14] by Richard Gaffin, the concept of union with Christ as resurrected as the central theme in Paul’s soteriology has been an enriching study. Here’s a quote from Gaffin:

…the notion that the believer has been raised with Christ brings into view all that now characterizes him as a result of having been joined to Christ as resurrected. It means that he has been justified, adopted, sanctified, and glorified with Christ, better, that he has been united with the Christ, who is justified, adopted, sanctified, and glorified, and so by virtue of this (existential) union shares these benefits.

A corollary of this conclusion is that everywhere Paul speaks of the believer’s justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification (or any of the other benefits connected with these), there the more basic, underlying consideration is resurrection with Christ, that is, existential union with Christ as resurrected.

Unpacking the Ninth Commandment

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Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

In these words is contained an entire volume that could be written on slander, lying, gossip, shaming others, and so on. Do we delight in speaking ill or even thinking ill of others, even if it’s true to one degree or another? Too often this manifests itself on social media, even in seemingly harmless ways (“humble shaming”?), but also in loose talk within conversations, even and especially with people in church many times. The Westminster Larger Catechism unpacks what is required and restricted within the ninth commandment. Quite convicting. Thankful that Jesus covers this by His great love through the accomplishment of our salvation in fulfilling this aspect of the law. And yet I pray that through His resurrection to new life that is now ours, that we would turn from our loose natural talk that demeans others, and as Paul says in Romans 3:31, uphold the law by this faith in His promises in the gospel.

Below is  link to a great article related to this and the section of questions related to the ninth commandment in the Westminster Larger Catechism.

Further reading: https://cccdiscover.com/this-is-why-gossip-is-the-most-unacceptable-sin/ [15]


Q. 143. Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Q. 144. What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?
A. The duties required in the ninth commandment are, the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own; appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever; a charitable esteem of our neighbors; loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name; sorrowing for and covering of their infirmities; freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency; a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them; discouraging talebearers, flatterers, and slanderers; love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth; keeping of lawful promises; studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

Q. 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful or equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of the truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, talebearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any; endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.

Five Solas of the Reformation – Gregg Strawbridge

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Sola Scriptura: The Scripture Alone is the Standard

The doctrine that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority was the “Formal Principle” of the Reformation. In 1521 at the historic interrogation of Luther at the Diet of Worms, he declared his conscience to be captive to the Word of God saying, “Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons — for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another — I am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by God’s Word.” Similarly, the Belgic Confession stated, “We believe that [the] holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein…Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures nor ought we to consider custom or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God… Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule” (VII).

As the Scripture says,

Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Thy law….I will bow down toward Thy holy temple, And give thanks to Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth; For Thou hast magnified Thy word according to all Thy name….You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (Psalm 119:18; Psalm 138:2; II Tim. 3:14-17)

Soli Deo Gloria! For the Glory of God Alone

The Reformation reclaimed the Scriptural teaching of the sovereignty of God over every aspect of the believer’s life. All of life is to be lived to the glory of God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” This great and all consuming purpose was emphasized by those in the 16th and 17th Centuries who sought to reform the church according to the Word of God. In contrast to the monastic division of life into sacred versus secular perpetuated by Roman Church, the reformers saw all of life to be lived under the Lordship of Christ. Every activity of the Christian is to be sanctified unto the glory of God.

As the Scripture says,

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God; Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (1CO 10:31; 1PE 4:11; REV 1:6; 2PE 3:1; EPH 3:21; REV 7:12; ROM 11:36)

Solo Christo! By Christ’s Work Alone are We Saved

The Reformation called the church back to faith in Christ as the sole mediator between God and man. While the Roman church held that “there is a purgatory and that the souls there detained are helped by the intercessions of the faithful” and that “Saints are to be venerated and invoked;” “that their relics are to be venerated” — the reformers taught that salvation was by Christ’s work alone. As John Calvin said in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, “Christ stepped in, took the punishment upon himself and bore the judgment due to sinners. With his own blood he expiated the sins which made them enemies of God and thereby satisfied him…we look to Christ alone for divine favour and fatherly love!” Likewise the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 30 asks, “Do such then believe in Jesus the only Saviour who seek their salvation and happiness in saints, in themselves, or anywhere else? They do not; for though they boast of him in words yet in deeds they deny Jesus the only deliverer and Saviour: for one of these two things must be true that either Jesus is not a complete Saviour or that they who by a true faith receive this Saviour must find all things in him necessary to their salvation.”

As the Scripture says,

There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time…For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. (1TI 2:5-6; COL 1:13-18)

Sola Gratia: Salvation by Grace Alone

A central cry of the Reformation was salvation by grace. Though the Roman church taught that Mass is a “sacrifice [which] is truly propitiatory” and that by the Mass “God…grant[s] us grace and the gift of penitence, remits our faults and even our enormous sins” — the reformers returned to the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. Our righteous standing before God is imputed to us by grace because of the work of Christ Jesus our Lord. In contrast to the doctrines of self-merit taught by Rome, sola gratia and the accompanying doctrines of grace — total depravity, unconditional election, particular redemption, and perseverance of the saints — were preached by all the reformers throughout the Protestant movement. As the Baptist Confession of 1689 says, “Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are justified; and did, by the sacrifice of himself in the blood of his cross, undergoing in their stead the penalty due unto them, make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in their behalf;…their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.”

As the Scripture says,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us. (Ephesians 1:3-8)

Sola Fide: Justification by Faith Alone

The “Material Principle” of the Reformation was justification by faith alone. As the Westminster Confession of Faith says, “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification: yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.” The Genevan Confession likewise pointed out the necessity of those justified living by faith saying, “We confess that the entrance which we have to the great treasures and riches of the goodness of God that is vouchsafed us is by faith; inasmuch as, in certain confidence and assurance of heart, we believe in the promises of the gospel, and receive Jesus Christ as he is offered to us by the Father and described to us by the Word of God (Genevan 11).

As the Scripture says,

Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations shall be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:6-11)

https://web.archive.org/web/20130330165754/http://www.fivesolas.com/5solas.htm [16]

Artificial Intelligence Weaponization Possibilities

Posted By David Westerfield On In Technology | No Comments

From an interview with James Cameron, director of the Terminator and Alien movies, amongst many others, and Tim Miller.http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/james-cameron-sounds-alarm-artificial-intelligence-unveils-a-terminator-21st-century-1043027

CAMERON Technology has always scared me, and it’s always seduced me. People ask me: “Will the machines ever win against humanity?” I say: “Look around in any airport or restaurant and see how many people are on their phones. The machines have already won.” It’s just [that] they’ve won in a different way. We are co-evolving with our technology. We’re merging. The technology is becoming a mirror to us as we start to build humanoid robots and as we start to seriously build AGI — general intelligence — that’s our equal. Some of the top scientists in artificial intelligence say that’s 10 to 30 years from now. We need to get the damn movies done before that actually happens! And when you talk to these guys, they remind me a lot of that excited optimism that nuclear scientists had in the ’30s and ’40s when they were thinking about how they could power the world. And taking zero responsibility for the idea that it would instantly be weaponized. The first manifestation of nuclear power on our planet was the destruction of two cities and hundreds of thousands of people. So the idea that it can’t happen now is not the case. It can happen, and it may even happen.

MILLER Jim is a more positive guy [than I am] in the present and more cynical about the future. I know Hawking and Musk think we can put some roadblocks in there. I’m not so sure we can. I can’t imagine what a truly artificial intelligence will make of us. Jim’s brought some experts in to talk to us, and it’s really interesting to hear their perspective. Generally, they’re scared as sh**, which makes me scared.

[Me: comforting.]

Resources for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

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With this year being the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Reformation (though there were quite a number of precursors leading up to that point), there are a number of great resources that are celebrating what God has done in history in recovering the gospel, while expressing the urgent need for ongoing reformation in our present day in the church (universally).

Desiring God – A 31-day Journey with Heroes of the Reformation (this just started yesterday, Articles and Audio):

White Horse Inn – The Solas of the Reformation (this is still in process, Audio): https://www.whitehorseinn.org/series/the-solas-of-the-reformation/ [20]

5 Minutes in Church History: http://www.5minutesinchurchhistory.com/ [21]

Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World – PBS Documentary (Video): http://www.pbs.org/program/martin-luther-idea-changed-world/ [22]

Ligonier – The Next 500 Years: 2017 National Conference (Audio and Video): http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/next-500-years-2017-national-conference/ [23]

Reformation and Modern Church History – David Calhoun, Covenant Theological Seminary (Audio Lectures): https://www.covenantseminary.edu/resources/reformation-modern-church-history/ [24]

The Reformation – Carl Trueman, Westminster Theological Seminary (Audio Lectures): https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/the-reformation/id924126015 [25]

Here are some other resources that are good calls to temper that (right) celebration of the recovery of the gospel with humility (both personally and how we view the history of those events) as to what took place and what we can learn from it that could have gone better, as well as highlighting the need for Reformation in our day within evangelicalism. At the very least they are a bit of a needed corrective against an over-exuberant, triumphant Reformed identity that, as Trueman says (paraphrasing), only looks in the mirror of history and sees its own reflection.

Taking Responsibility for the Reformation – Peter Leithart: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2017/02/taking-responsibility-for-the-reformation [26]

Remembering the Reformation but Celebrating What? – Carl Trueman: https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2016/09/remembering-the-reformation-but-celebrating-what [27]

The Future of Protestantism – Public Discussion (Video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKekHEco87U [28]

The Covenant of Grace in a Nutshell

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“The covenant of grace, with respect to us, consists of the absolute promises of God, in which the mediator, the life to be obtained by him, the faith by which we may be made partakers of him, the benefits purchased by him, and the perseverance in that faith, in a word, the whole of salvation, and all the requisites to it, are absolutely promised.”

Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man [29]